In Case You Missed It

At his personal blog, Bruce Ashford recently shared 5 criteria he feels are important for choosing the next U.S. President. Dr. Ashford writes:

The 2016 election cycle has been a never-ending carnival of political wedgies. Nothing could have prepared us for the repetitive sequence of awkward and uncomfortable surprises we have experienced over the course of the past year.

 

At the beginning of the primary season, the two major political parties offered an unusually broad array of candidates that included liberals, conservatives, progressives, nationalists, socialists, and libertarians. In addition, they offered debates that were strikingly superficial and juvenile, more similar in character to a Saturday Night Live skit than to a serious debate about who should serve as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. On top of that, they revealed to us the deep fissures within the major parties and within the conservative and progressive movements; neither major party has a consensus candidate.

 

As the primary season comes to a close and the political parties narrow in on their nominees, many of us still have not decided for whom we will cast our vote. Which of the candidates would make the best President of the United States of America? As we the People consider our answer to this question, we should take into account the following criteria, each of which will significantly affect the way our next president will govern.

 

Tim Challies recently posted an article describing the transgender conversation you need to have with your family.

A friend of mine told me about her recent experience in an airport security line. She was dutifully passing through the metal detector when she heard a beep and was told she would need the pat-down procedure. It is the right of the traveler to have that procedure performed by someone of the same gender and so, as per protocol, the call went out for a female officer to assist. But as the pat-down began, my friend realized that the officer was undeniably biologically male though identifying as female. She did not know what to do or say, so simply allowed the pat-down to proceed. As she walked away, she realized that she was more surprised than offended. It had just never occurred to her that she might unexpectedly find herself being frisked by a man whom she had been told was a woman.

 

As you know, new laws are allowing transgender people to craft their own identity and then to have society treat them accordingly. A biological male who identifies as a woman is allowed to use the bathroom or locker room associated with his new identity. He is also granted the right to be considered female. In this way sex and gender are being deliberately disconnected so that words like “man” and “woman” have no necessary correlation to “male” and “female” or “masculine” and “feminine.” And, for that reason, we find ourselves facing new scenarios like the one my friend described. However, such situations are rare because transgenderism is rare.

 

But there is something that, to my mind, is of greater and wider concern. It is the fact that the same laws that allow transgender people to craft their own identity allow expansive rights to anyone else.

 

At the intersect project website, Carrie Kelly shared 5 lessons from the life of St. Patrick on trusting God without limits. Carrie writes:

During the 5th century, St. Patrick of Ireland bravely engaged a barbaric culture for the sake of Christ, and his legacy changed the course of history, not only for that society but arguably for the entire Western world.

 

Captured by Irish raiders at his father’s country villa at age 15, Patrick spent 6 years watching his master’s livestock for long isolated days on end, spending much of his time in prayer and communion with God. Finally escaping, he made his way back to his home in England only to have a dream of the Irish calling him back to the land of his captors to share the good news of a God who loved them. By the end of his life of ministry, numerous churches and monasteries had been set up all over Ireland and “countless number” had been baptized into the Church.

 

How could one man have had such an impact — and what can we gain from his example? Here are five lessons you can learn from St. Patrick of Ireland.

 

Marie McDonald posted an article at The Peoples Next Door showing that church community has an outward focus too.

Think for a moment about Christian community. Typically, the term conjures up ideas of potluck dinners, rallying around a struggling small group member, or other forms of internal church focus. While these are great, it is only the beginning of godly community.

 

If the church is primarily meant to be a worshipping community, it involves not only our gathering together but also the way we minister to the community around us.

 

In John 13, Jesus tells his followers, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” But we often miss the next part, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So, Jesus is saying that the way we love one another will be our witness to the community.

 

However, how will the non-Christian community know of our love and unity if we focus all of our efforts inwards? Do we expect them to come banging on our doors, wanting to be a part?

 

Brad Hambrick posted an article at his blog discussing the Bible for over achievers. Brad writes:

The Bible can be a dangerous book for over achievers. When a God-loving, passionate, Type A person reads his or her Bible every command feels like a personal assignment. This is incredible, at least for a while. Personal growth, evangelism, and discipleship abound as the over achiever tries to capitalize on every opportunity.

 

Usually, several predictable things happen.

 

Earlier this week Barnabas Piper blogged about 4 things he learned about work from a peewee soccer team.

My first grade daughter just wrapped up her spring soccer season. If you’ve ever watched kids soccer you would not think there is much to learn about anything but the most rudimentary instructions.

 

“Wrong way!”

“Kick the Ball!”

“Run!”

 

Over the course of the season, though, I began to notice a few things that consistently occurred that turned the outcome of every game. Each of them is directly applicable to your work and mine.

 

In Case You Missed It

Amber Bowen recently posted an article at the Intersect Project website discussing human value and the pro-life ethic. Amber writes:

What does it mean to be pro-life?

 

The term “pro-life” has a narrow meaning in our current context and political discourse. Typically, when we say someone is pro-life we mean that they stand up for the rights of the unborn and oppose abortion.

 

While being a voice for the unborn is a significant part, that issue alone does not encompass the whole of being pro-life. We must be careful not to mistake the whole for the part.

 

The scriptures open up our narrowly focused definition, reminding us that all life is precious and should be defended. This is true of the unborn child at the earliest stages of development, a child with special needs, a wayward teenager bent on ruining her life, orphans, the homeless, refugees, immigrants, minorities, the elderly.

 

What do all of these examples of life have in common? What is the common thread of value that runs between them? The theologically correct answer is that they are each made in the image of God and are the crowning work of his creation. Our society, however, has proposed other bases for the value of human life.

 

Even though Christians may cognitively believe that humans have life because of the imago dei, I believe if we dusted for the fingerprints of these alternative bases of value we would be shocked by how scattered they are throughout the Church and within our hearts.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The Peoples Next Door explaining how languages are more important than we think.

Languages are fascinating.

 

For all of you who endured through Spanish or French in high school, you may disagree with me, but there is a reason that we take foreign languages in school. Language is a fundamental part of being human. It is one of the irreducible components of every society. Every culture, every group of people, communicates through language. It may be English, it may be any one of thousands of foreign languages, or it may even be sign language. Everyone that can communicate does so with language.

 

That makes language very important, and we need to keep that in mind as we do ministry in the United States today. I am a firm believer that good ministry can happen across language barriers. Language can often be an excuse for not reaching out to our new, foreign-born neighbors. It should never be so, and even when we do not know their language, we can still begin to engage. However, we desperately need to realize how important language is to culture, because it has a huge impact on discipleship and missions.

 

Language does not merely express what we think it affects how we think.

 

Language is a means of expressing the content of culture, but it is so closely tied to culture that it is often hard to distinguish between the two. The two work in tandem, developing one another and shaping one another. Just like culture, language affects our worldview. It shapes the categories for our thinking, and it determines how we process information.

 

At his blog The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls writes: “Culture gives Christians a choice: hypocrite, bigot, or weirdo?”

As western culture becomes more post-Christian, those seeking to follow Christ will find themselves in increasingly difficult circumstances. We will essentially be in no-win situations. Do you want to be a hypocrite, a bigot, or a weirdo?

 

“Christians are a bunch of hypocrites.”

 

We’ve all heard that statement and we’ve heard it as an excuse for a whole host of things. Why don’t you come to church? Hypocrites. Why shouldn’t Christians have a part in the cultural discussion of marriage? Hypocrites.

 

Make no mistake, we’ve seen Christians act hypocritically. Just recently, we can point to Josh Duggar and other Christian leaders whose immoral lives have been exposed, all the while they preached the importance of biblical morality.

 

There are very real cases where self-professed followers of Jesus have failed to live up to the standards they championed for others. Many in culture have gleefully pointed to these instances and concluded, “If Christians refuse to live according to their own values, why should anyone listen to them?”

 

The hypocrisy of one Christian is used as a means to dismiss the positions held by other Christians. If that pastor cannot remain faithful to his wife, Christians should not speak on issues of marriage.

 

So hypocrisy is worthy of scorn, sure. But what about those trying to live out their ideals?

 

Southeastern Baptist Seminary provost, Dr. Bruce Ashford recently discussed some of his favorite books, as well as some books he is reading right now with Matt Smethurst at The Gospel Coalition. Matt writes:

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers.

 

I corresponded with Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, about what’s on his nightstand, books that have shaped his thoughts on politics and culture, his favorite fiction, what he’s learning about life and faith, and more.

 

Tim Challies recently posted a list of helpful resources to kick-start your theological library.

It’s no secret that building a quality theological library is a very expensive proposition. Compared to popular-level books, theological works come at a premium cost. But I’ve got a secret to share with you that will help kick-start any theological library: You can build an electronic library of excellent theological journals and magazines without spending a dime. These journals are full of excellent articles by top writers, scholars, and reviewers. Some are targeted at academics while others are written with a general audience in mind. There is something for everyone!

 

In just a moment I will give you a long list of journals and magazines that are freely available to download. Before I do that, though, you need to make sure you have an information management system that can store and search Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files. I recommend Evernote as a system that will allow you to not only store and search the files, but also to read and annotate them, though annotation may require an Evernote Premium subscription. Once you download the files you can add them to your information management system which will, in turn, allow you to search them and use them for reading or research. Click them, download them, store them, use them. It’s that simple. (Alternatively, you can just download them as you do any other file and read them that way.)

In Case You Missed It

1) Ed Stetzer made a strong argument for church planting as the key to revitalizing waning denominations.

2) From the New York Times, Ross Douthat examined the theology of President Obama, which is heavily indebted to Reinhold Niebuhr. Douthat argues that Obama’s dependence, though, reveals the limits of such theology applied to public life.

3) Also from the New York Times, David Brooks wrote a persuasive op-ed on the need for rigorous forgiveness in our society for the sake of our society. This was in response to the viral reactions to the growing Brian Williams scandal at NBC News.

4) Tim Challies penned a thoughtful and helpful set of guidelines for how he prays for God’s protection over his children.

5) Trevin Wax, SEBTS PhD student and Managing Editor of Lifeway’s Gospel Project, notes that we should not “assume evangelicalism” in presentations of the church’s mission.rpg online mobile game